Lots Of Talk But Still No Answers

voltaireToday, the latest breakfast meeting of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle took place at the Western House Hotel in Ayr.

The guest speaker was Nosheena Mobarik OBE, owner of M Computer Technologies in Glasgow and former chair of the CBI in Scotland who put forward the case for the ‘Better Together’ campaign regarding Scottish independence.

Nosheena was a passionate and eloquent speaker and covered many topics including currency, membership of the EU, financial services, public services etc. but, I’m afraid to report, the upshot was the same as usual.

It doesn’t seem to matter which side of the divide these speakers come from, it all boils down to supposition and scaremongering with no real basis on facts. As far as I understand it, the first tangible piece of information on which to debate the issues will be the SNP white paper on independence due to be published on 26 November.

I, for one, will look forward to it and hope that the majority of my concerns will be answered in that document. Until then, I would like both sides to stop the bickering and negativity and concentrate on providing us with the real facts so we can make an informed decision when the time comes.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

PowerPoint 2010 Masterclass – Formatting Shapes

ppt03PowerPoint 2010 has many professional-looking, pre-defined objects that can be inserted into our presentations.

In this blog we are going to look at how we can modify them and specifically look at formatting shapes.

The techniques you will learn in this tutorial can be used with the other types of objects and can also be used with other Microsoft Office applications.

The options we will cover include:

Fill options
Transparent, solid, gradient, picture

Line options
Colour, style

Shadow and reflection options
Internal/external shadows, reflections

You can download a sample shapes document >>here<<, in Powerpoint 2010 format, to accompany these instructions.

Let’s get down to business.

Background Fill

Open the shapes document that you downloaded above. (Ensure you have enabled editing).

ppt03_01

Right-click on the circle shape and select the Format Shape option at the bottom of the dialogue box that appears (Shown right).

This opens up the Format Shape dialogue box (shown below).

Learn to love this dialogue box because we will be seeing quite a lot of it during the course of this lesson.

ppt03_2

Make sure the Fill option is highlighted and click on the radio box for No fill.

If you have carried out the instructions correctly, the word Correct will appear inside the circle.

Click Close.

Now right-click the star shape and select the Format Shape option again.

This time, with the Fill option still highlighted, click on the radio box for Gradient fill.

Click on the down arrow, next to the Preset colors option and select one of the presets (I chose the Gold option).

Click Close and admire your work.

Next, right-click the hexagon shape and select the Format Shape.

The Fill option should still highlighted, click on the radio box for Picture or texture fill.

Look down and find the Insert from: section and click in the File … box.

This should take you to your default Pictures folder.

Select a photo you like and click Insert.

Click Close.

Your selected photograph should now be positioned inside the shape.

Finally, right-click the heart shape and select the Format Shape option.

Click on the radio box for Pattern fill.

Select a Foreground Color and a Background Color and in the box above, select one of the preset patterns.

Click Close.

Line Options

Weight and style

Go back to the circle shape and right-click inside it.

Click the Format Shape option.

This time, select the Line Style option.

Change the Width to 4 pt.

Change the Compound type to Triple (the 5th option down).

Change the Dash type to Dash dot (the 5th option down again).

Change the Cap type to Round.

Click Close.

Line colour

Right-click inside the circle shape.

Click the Format Shape option.

Select the Line Color option.

Click on the radio box for Gradient line.

Click on the down arrow, next to the Preset colors option and select one of the presets (I chose the Rainbow option).

Click Close.

Now, right-click on the heart shape and change the weight, style and colour to test your latest knowledge.

Shadow and Reflection Options

ppt03_04

Shadows

Right-click inside the star shape.

Click the Format Shape option.

Select the Shadow option.

Click the down arrow next to the Color option and make sure you select a dark colour.

Then set the following values as indicated in the diagram on the right.

Click Close.

Reflections

Right-click inside the hexagon shape.

Click the Format Shape option.

Select the Reflection option.

Click the down arrow next to the Presets option.

Select one of the Reflection Variations (I chose the first of them).

Click Close.

Below you can see how my examples turned out.

ppt03_05

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Credit Where It’s Due – Great Customer Service

I have never been lucky with sunglasses. They never seem to last and every year I have to go out and buy a new pair. Some are better than others and, to my utter shame, I have bought some real ‘doozies’ in the past but this year I bought a nice pair of Foster Grants (not exactly D&G, I know, but I liked them).

The other day I was devastated to find that my relatively new glasses had a detachable arm. This was mainly due to the fact that the small screw that attaches it had fallen out. What was I to do?

I decided to go to a local opticians in Kilmarnock to see if they carried out repairs. As a young (Editors comment: What?), fit (Editors comment: What?) and healthy guy, I don’t normally have need of their services and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, I can report that the staff in Optical Express, Kilmarnock were absolutely brilliant. Although they established I wasn’t a regular customer, they took my afore-mentioned ‘tinged pince-nez’ and spent about five minutes replacing the screw. When I asked how much it had cost, they said it was free of charge. Okay, I know it was only a small screw and that it probably cost just a few pence but, to a lot of people, this would have been a chargeable service. Well done Optical Express, you re-invigorated my faith in human kindness and brightened up the rest of my day.

I now don’t feel so guilty and neglectful of my own business skills when I charge an old-age pensioner a cup of tea and a chat when I have just helped them with a minor computer problem.

Ain’t it nice to be nice.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

“Eat Your Frogs For Breakfast”

frogYesterday I attended a Time and Priority Management session and one of the topics that came up for discussion was procrastination, the act of putting off, delaying or deferring an action or task to a later time or date.

I suspect many of us, in business, are guilty of this to some degree but, hopefully, not that often. I know I, for one, have procrastinated in the past. In fact, I put off a task to attend that morning’s session in the first place.

Anyway, one of the attendees shared a technique with the rest of us which she referred to as “Eating your frogs for breakfast”. It is a term I was unfamiliar with although, I now know, it is a widely accepted method for aiding your productivity.

It is actually based on a quote attributed to Mark Twain, who said,

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

So the idea is that you start your day by doing a number of the tasks you have been putting off for whatever reason. By achieving this, the day ahead seems brighter and your productivity soars. I can see the psychology behind it and will be giving it a try over the next few weeks to see how I get on.

So, pass ‘les grenouilles’ (that’s French for frogs by the way), I’m feeling hungry.

Have a great day, all.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Excel 2010 Masterclass – Sorting and Querying Data

blackboardexcel7Okay, we have now created our spreadsheets and got them looking great but now we need to put them to good use.

There are many tips and tricks we can employ and one of the most common and useful techniques to help us on our way is the ability to sort and query our data.

Microsoft Excel has built-in functionality exactly for this purpose so let’s take a look at what is possible.

You can download a sample staff details spreadsheet >>here<<, in Excel 2010 format, to accompany these instructions.

If you have downloaded the file, open it and click on the box to Enable Editing. This will put the instructions in context and make it easier to follow the blog post.

Now that the spreadsheet is open, the first thing we will look at is sorting data.

Sorting Data

excel005_01

We are going to apply a custom sort to our data according to Surname and then First Name.

On the Home ribbon bar click on the Sort & Filter button that you will find in the Editing section (shown right).

Select the Custom Sort option.

The Sort dialogue box appears.

In the Sort by box, click on the down arrow and select Surname from the options on show.

Now, click on the Add Level button on the top-left of the dialogue box.

A new row has been added.

In the new Sort by box, click on the down arrow and select First Name from the options on show. (Shown below).

excel005_02

Click OK.

Examine your data and note that your changes have taken place.

Filtering Data

We are now going to query our data by using a function called Filter.

On the Home ribbon bar click on the Sort & Filter button that you will find in the Editing section (shown right).

Select the Filter option.

Notice that your headings now have a down arrow displaying on their right-hand side. (Shown below).

excel005_03

Now, imagine you have been asked by the local council to supply the number of employees that live in Kilmarnock and earn more than £20,000.

excel005_04

First of all we will filter out the number of employees that live in Kilmarnock.

Click on the down arrow to the right of the Town column heading.

In the dialogue box that appears (shown right), you will see all of the town options that are available. We are only interested in the town of Kilmarnock for this exercise so…

Click on the (Select All) box that you will find above all the town names. This will de-select all the towns.

Now, click in the box beside the Kilmarnock option.

Click OK.

Note that the spreadsheet is now only displaying the employees living in Kilmarnock and that the down arrow to the right of the Town title has changed, and added a filter icon.

Now let’s sort out the salary constraint.

Click on the down arrow to the right of the Salary column heading.

Select the Number Filters option.

In the new dialogue box that appears, select Greater Than.

In the Custom AutoFilter dialogue box, type 20000 in the box to the right of where it says “is greater than”.

Click OK.

How many employees are left that comply with the filters you set?

If the answer is six, you have done very well.

That is the end of our Sorting and Querying Data masterclass.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

YouTube Changes – One Channel

youtube

If, like me and many other businesses, you have your own YouTube channel, you might be unaware that there are major changes afoot.

Although these changes are not compulsory (at the moment) they have been introduced in an effort to customise your branding across multiple devices.

The worrying part is that the changes may have already taken place without your knowledge. You can switch back if you want to but my recommendation would be to accept and embrace the changes. It takes a bit of work and it’s a little fiddly in places but the effort is worth it.

So what are the changes?

You can visit

http://www.youtube.com/onechannel

to get the lowdown on the whys and wherefores but here it is in a nutshell.

Channel Art

This is the graphic that will be used to display your channel on all the individual devices. There are lots of sizes to take into account and they are available using this link

://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&topic=16630&answer=2972003

As I said previously, it is a little complicated to follow and I had a bit of ‘trial and error’ before getting it correct.

#One tip. YouTube automatically places your existing profile picture on the top left of the Channel Art, so make sure you leave space for it.

Below is a copy of my attempt at the Channel Art.

channelart

Web Links

Once your Channel Art is added and you are happy with it, you can now add your web links.

Hover your mouse over your Channel Art and a pencil icon appears on the top right-hand side of the graphic.

Hover over the pencil and click on theEdit Links option that appears.

Follow the on-screen instructions that allow you to create one customised link (maybe to your blog or other landing page) and up to four Social Media links.

While you are on this page you can also add your Channel description.

Channel Description

Tell your viewers who you are, what your channel is about, why they should subscribe to your channel and how often you add a new video.

Channel Trailer

This is a video of your choice that is automatically shown to visitors that are not already subscribers to your channel. It gives you an opportunity to ‘win them over’ and convert them to subscribers and hopefully ‘evangelists’ for your channel.

When you convert to the new one channel option, a space appears where you can add your trailer (See below).

ctscreen

That’ll do for now but do check back for additional posts in the future.

This is the end of our TouTube – One Channel blog post.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

PowerPoint 2010 Masterclass – Slide Layouts

ppt02When preparing a PowerPoint presentation, it is important to use different slide layouts to make the most of your content in order to get the important points across to your audience.

Slide Layout refers to the positioning and formatting of a slide. The layout uses placeholders which contain all the information you want to display including text, lists, tables, charts, graphics etc.

Placeholders are the boxes on a slide that are surrounded by a dotted line and they can be moved, resized and/or re-formatted if you so wish.

Pre-defined Layouts

PowerPoint 2010 has nine pre-defined layouts but allows you to create custom layouts to suit whatever presentation project you are undertaking. Let’s take a look at them.

Open Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 if you haven’t already done so.

When the new presentation is opened, the default slide is formatted in the ‘Title Slide’ layout. It has two placeholders, one for the presentation title and one for the subtitle. If this is not the layout you want, what are your options?

ppt02_001

On the Home ribbon bar, in the Slides section, click on the Layout icon (shown right). This will open up the slide layout dialog box.

The nine pre-defined layouts are:

  1. Title Slide
  2. Title and Content
  3. Section Header
  4. Two Content
  5. Comparison
  6. Title Only
  7. Blank
  8. Content with Caption
  9. Picture with Caption

Remember, if these don’t ‘float your boat’, you can always customise your own.

Example

Let’s look at one of the options to practise.

Select the ‘Picture with Caption’ option from the drop-down menu.

This opens a new slide with three placeholders already placed for you.

In the centre of the top placeholder, click on the shaded icon. This should open your ‘My Pictures’ folder in a separate dialog box.

Select a picture of your choosing and click Insert.

Click in the Click to add title placeholder and add a title for your picture.

Click in the Click to add text placeholder and add some descriptive text.

Sit back and admire your work.

Here is the one I created.

cake

This is the end of our PowerPoint 2010 – Slide Layouts masterclass.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Word 2010 Masterclass – Multiple Columns

Multiple Columns TitleWanting to ‘jazz up’ your boring old Microsoft Word documents?

If your answer is “Yes”, then here is a very quick and simple idea for achieving the look of a newspaper article.

The vast majority of newspaper articles are laid out in a multiple column format and this effect is possible to create with just a few clicks of your mouse.

Interested? Then, here goes.

You can download a sample word document >>here<<, in Word 2010 format, to accompany these instructions.

Ensure a suitable document is open.

word004_01

Go to the Page Layout ribbon bar and in the Page Setup section, click on the Columns icon.

Select Two from the drop-down list (shown right).

View your results.

Go back to the Page Layout ribbon bar and in the Page Setup section, click on the Columns icon.

Select Three, this time, from the drop-down list.

View your results.

Experiment by repeating the steps above and then selecting Left and then Right respectively to see what results you can get.

Below is the downloaded document (first page only) with the three column layout applied.

3 Column Layout Document

This is the end of our Word 2010 – Multiple Columns masterclass.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Windows 8 – What’s New

Windows 8 Training GraphicSituation normal … we have just got used to Windows 7 … and Microsoft hit us with their latest operating system – Windows 8.

Yet again we find ourselves asking:

Is it very different?
Is it any better?
Should we upgrade to it?
How do we use it?

These questions and many more will be answered in our upcoming blogs, so return often so as not to miss out.

In this blog we will cover what is different with Windows 8.

NOTE: I warn you in advance … Windows 8 is the biggest change to the Windows Operating System since Windows ’95. It will even challenge the more experienced Windows users.

Anyway here goes.

Speed

First of all, the good news. Microsoft made claims that Windows 8 would be much faster to load and close down. In my experience that is exactly the case. Windows 8 IS much faster loading and closing and it also switches between apps quicker so it gets a big tick for speed.

General Look and Feel

This is where we find the greatest number of changes and whether they are for the better is still in debate. The idea behind the system is to make it compatible with a multitude of devices and ‘touch-centric’ functionality has been added. Sounds like a good idea at first but I feel it takes away from the normal point-and-click style we are all used to.

Lock Screen

Windows 8 starts up with a Lock Screen (shown below) which appears when you boot your PC and when your PC sleeps. The default Lock Screen has a background image with the time and date in the bottom-left corner and some useful apps that tell you about your Internet connection, your battery life etc. The screen is fully customisable and you can choose your own image and your own apps on view.

In my opinion, the Lock Screen is unnecessary on a PC or laptop although it may be handy on a tablet. A lot of users disable it and, I must admit, I am one of them.

Windows 8 Lock Screen

Start Screen

Once you log in to your PC you will be confronted by the Start Screen (shown below). It is designed mainly for the mobile device and touch-screen display market and is not getting many rave reviews from PC and Laptop users.

First of all you should notice there is no Start button on view and that the screen is full of tiles. These tiles give you access to applications that you start by clicking on the individual tile. It is a real shame that the majority of these applications are cut down versions of the real thing.

One great thing about this screen, though, is that you can open the search function by just starting to type anywhere on the screen. Very handy but not enough to justify its existence.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Charms Bar

The Charms Bar (shown below) is a contextual five-option menu dependent upon your currently viewed screen.

It can be accessed anywhere in Windows 8 by:

  • pointing your mouse at the top or bottom of the screen on the right-hand side
  • pressing the Win+C keys together

The five menu items are:

  • Search:

    Brings up a search box for Apps, Settings, Files etc.

  • Share:

    Allows you to share what you are viewing on screen with friends via email.

  • Start:

    Takes you back to the Start screen.

  • Devices:

    Allows you to send your screen’s information to another device. This is limited to devices that are currently connected to your computer.

  • Settings:

    The most handy of the menu items. It gives access to a variety of settings, Control Panel, Personalisation, PC Info and Help. (This is where you can also switch off your PC (The Power Button)).

Windows 8 Charms Screen

Conclusion

I have now had Windows 8 installed for a month and find it difficult to recommend it to anyone. If you are a traditional point-and-click person, then this is probably not the operating system for you.

C’mon Microsoft, you can do better.

That is the end of our Windows 8 – What’s New masterclass.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options

Excel 2010 Masterclass – Freezing Rows and Columns

Excel 2010 Graphic
Freezing rows and columns is a built-in function that Microsoft Excel provides to help when working with large spreadsheets.

If you have worked with large spreadsheets before, then you will know some of the problems associated with viewing parts of the data area. If you haven’t, then download our accompanying spreadsheet and see what we mean.

You can download a sample staff details spreadsheet >>here<<, in Excel 2010 format.

Problem

If you have downloaded the Staff Details spreadsheet above, you will notice that when you scroll to the right you lose sight of the staff member names.

So, for example, if you want to know the date that Diana Prince started with the company, you find her name in the first column (column A) and scroll to the right to find the date she started (column K). Are you at the right date? It is hard to confirm if you can no longer see the persons name.

Subsequently, we now want to find out the date of birth for Sally Nice. Again, we find her name in the first column and then scroll to the right to the date of birth column. Which one is it? We can no longer see the column headings.

So that’s the problem … let’s sort it.

Solutions

Excel 2010 Graphic

     1. Freezing the top row

Go to the View ribbon bar and click on the Freeze Panes button that you will find in the Window section (shown right).

Select Freeze Top Row.

At first glance it looks as if nothing has happened but if you scroll down you will notice that the titles at the top are now always in view.

     2. Freezing the first column

Go back to the View ribbon bar and click on the Freeze Panes button that you found in the Window section.

Select Freeze First Column.

This unfreezes the top row from before and freezes the first column instead. Try scrolling from left to right and notice that, now, the staff members name is always on show.

     3. Freezing columns and rows together

Go back to the View ribbon bar and click on the Freeze Panes button that you found in the Window section.

Select Unfreeze Panes.

Select cell B2.

Go back to the View ribbon bar and click on the Freeze Panes button once more.

Select Freeze Panes.

This has frozen the top row and the first column at the same time.

Problem solved, methinks.

That is the end of our Freezing Rows and Columns masterclass.

Please use the comments box below to let us know what you think of our blogs.

Bob Thomson is an IT professional with over 20 years experience in the industry having worked as a Consultant, Director, Manager and Trainer. He has vast experience using Microsoft software packages as an individual and in businesses situations.

Bob Thomson
Owner / Managing Director
Real Options